From mongooses to middle school students, the plays performed at the Yale Drama Coalition’s theater festival this past weekend covered a broad range of themes while meeting a tight deadline.
The YDC hosted its biannual 24-hour theater festival, dubbed “Wet Hot Theatrical Summer,” at the Calhoun Cabaret on Saturday night. The performance featured four 10-minute plays written, directed and performed all within the duration of the festival. Maxine Dillon ’17, whose “Mongoose Play” was performed, highlighted the fast-paced creative process that writers must adapt to for the festival.
“[What I love about the festival is] creating this thing that wasn’t there 24 hours before and being part of this magical process … because it totally just comes out of nowhere, and you really don’t know where it’s going,” Dillon said.
According to YDC president Skyler Ross ’16, the concept of a 24-hour theater festival has existed on college campuses for years and is now a tradition here at Yale. He explained that since the beginning of his freshman year, the YDC has organized such an event for volunteer playwrights, directors and actors who are potentially looking to become involved in theater.
YDC Special Events Coordinator Sarah Cohen ’18, who organized the festival, said the behind-the-scenes work started when thematic prompts were sent out to the playwrights on Friday evening. After 12 hours of frantic brainstorming and writing, she added, the playwrights submitted their work to her and the directors and actors began rehearsals. The festival culminated in an hour-long performance to an audience of roughly 30 students on Saturday night, Cohen noted.
Ross said the theme for this year’s festival was inspired by the Netflix program “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” which centers on a group of camp counselors in Maine and the relationships that they form with one another. All the plays were therefore set in summer camps, Ross explained. Matt Thekkethala ’19, whose play “Out” takes place in an autistic summer camp, said he did not want his play to take place in a traditional outdoors camp and picked the play’s setting based on his cousin’s experience volunteering for a program for autistic children.
Dillon attributed her idea of a play centering on a mongoose-training camp to “divine inspiration,” as she created the idea for her play while trying to think of the most absurd summer camp possible.
Though several of the festival’s participants were experienced members of Yale’s theater community, Cohen said, most participants were freshmen. She noted that she sorted the freshmen into groups with other freshmen, giving them opportunities to familiarize themselves with their classmates in theater. According to Cohen, the fact that “Wet Hot Theatrical Summer” was one of the first undergraduate theater productions of the year gave students a taste of theater at Yale.
“Getting involved in production can be time intensive,” said Ross. “The 24-hour theater festival is an outlet for people to get involved in the theater community without that commitment.”
All four volunteers interviewed said that they loved seeing their individual interpretations of the plays come to life within such a short timespan. Dillon added that this year was the first theater festival that made her fall in love with playwriting.
“It’s really cool to lead the scene and have a vision, and to see that vision come to fruition,” said Erin Hebert ’18, who directed both “Out” and “Lighthouse.”
All four students interviewed say they aim to participate in future theater productions at Yale, through the YDC or other production groups. Dillon said she even hopes to continue playwriting and acting after graduation.
The second YDC 24-hour theater festival of the 2015–16 season will take place next semester.